HOW MGS STARTED
In October of 1995, Aniceta Kiriga had the courage to take a stand against Female Genital Mutilation after she was asked to provide a wheel barrel for a girl who had gone through FGM and was dying. At that time the incidence of girls undergoing FGM in Tharaka Nithi Kenya was at 99.5%. Through interviewing the girls, Aniceta learned what they liked about the FGM ritual. She suggested an ‘alternative ritual’, which avoided genital cutting but maintained the essential components of female circumcision, such as education for the girls on family life and women’s roles, exchange of gifts, celebration, and a public declaration for community recognition.
The Tharaka Women’s Welfare Program is established and 29 girls attend the first Alternative Rite of Passage (ARP).
The ARP gains momentum and the support of many of the men in the community. TWWP begins providing scholarship money for the most needy so that they can attend school.
The original office of the Tharaka Women’s Welfare Program and the Alternative Rite of Passage.
The ARP is going strong and reaches up to 250 girls each year. The weeklong event occurs in every year during the winter break in the school yard. Girls walk up to twelve hours to attend and sleep on mats in the classrooms while there. It becomes clear that a permanent location is needed.
UW Faculty Associate, Lesley Sager visits the new location of the TWWP and the girls in Tharaka Nithi. It is evident that TWWP is doing an excellent job providing scholarships for the girls. But since many families live on about $25 a month, school fees are still difficult to manage and many girls have to drop out. It was also evident the many of the cottage crafts were not supported or passed on to the girls.
Lesley Sager along with graduate student Allison Sambo return to Gatunga to begin empathy research as a way to learn more about the girls and their families. At this time the local chief offered the community center as a location for a maker space where the girls and families can learn new skills.
Lesley Sager along with seven students travel back to
Gatunga to test out some ideas for the maker space. Ideas ranged from product development, bee keeping, and bio-mass briquettes. Through additional empathy research is became clear that a campus for the ARP girls and their families was not only needed, but there was land available.
MGS becomes a UW Madison student organization partnered with the Tharaka Women’s Welfare Program to continuously work with the people of Tharaka Nithi County.
UW Madison offers a winter 3-week, 3 –credit program traveling from Nairobi to the Village of Gatunga. Students work closely with the women from the village while using their Design Thinking potential to find new ways for women empowerment, community building and
Merry-Go-Strong continues to work with women artisans on creating beautiful baskets on which we sell. All of the profits go right back to their community to help aid in the creation of the baskets. Some of the funds have gone toward designing a makerie and building solar powered lights for the women to see in the dark.